Amsterdam, Netherlands: report by Shinji Kasema

Our 2017 SOPP in Amsterdam again took place at Oude Lutherse Kerk (Old Lutheran Church) on the 21st of May at 14:30. In the past, we have held our entire program inside, where we were alone and could enter a more meditative state. This time, we wanted bring our SOPP into the public sphere, and we were blessed with good weather, so we held half the program outside on the church grounds. Amsterdam is very popular with tourists, and there are many different things going on, creating a great mix of vibrations in the air. So, it was a challenge for us to carry out our ceremony in these surroundings.

We started with Shinto priest Paul de Leew walking in prayer from the back of the church around to the front, accompanied by the sound of the sho played by Naomi Sato. Under the blue sky, the Shinto purification looked so beautiful. We then had a ‘world ritual dance’ led by Paul Henneman, again accompanied by the sho. As we repeated it several times, we got the hang of it and enjoyed singing and dancing from our hearts. The last part of our outdoor program was the flag ceremony. We let the public know that anyone was invited to join in the ceremony at any point. Several people actually joined us, which was very nice.

After this, we brought our peace pole and flags into the church. Before starting the second half, we offered some food and drink and gave participants time to see the art exhibition. This year, I brought my own glass artwork, which I call the “10 years project,” as it is based on my experiences organizing and executing peace events twice a year (SOPP and International Day of Peace) from 2010 to 2020. As an artist and a person seeking peace, my aim for the project is to create seven different designs that are symbols of peace. This year, I introduced the fifth design.

After this break and a sho performance by Naomi, Rev. Dr. Andreas Wöhle led a prayer from the Christian tradition, and gave a talk about the significance of making the sign of the cross on our body. He said that the vertical line of the cross represents going through our chakras to activate and feel our own divinity. The hand is guided with the breath, and the horizontal line starts from edge of the heart across the chest. After that, we bring our hands in front of the abdomen, where our breath is. This represents our divine energy going out to another person or to the world. As we practiced this, I found it to be an eye-opening experience.

We then heard Hindu chanting by Sandhya Sanjana and her friends. Part of their chant was in English, so we could understand the meaning as well as feel the lovely vibrations. Then, Valerie Schepper led a sound meditation, playing the gong. Even when it was over, we stayed still and enjoyed the reverberation of the sound within ourselves. The final program was a violin concert by Nick Baar, a young Dutch talent working in Berlin. It was a real treat to see such great, young talent.

Our SOPP ended successfully. I personally felt that the prayers of the prayer leaders and the sincere attitudes of all the participants sustained me through the ceremony. I offer them my deepest gratitude for their support.

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